Chief Guccione's Thoughts To Help Improve Your Success

Your Inner Game and Outer Game

by Chief Dean Guccione - 

In this month’s Chief’s Tip, I want to discuss an area that is often overlooked by firefighter candidates, as they prepare for their firefighter panel interview. And that is your Inner Game. Most of you are typically preparing for your Outer Game (I discuss what this means below), but don’t realize that your success is highly dependent on your Inner Game (about 90%).

If you haven’t worked on your Inner Game, as part of your preparation, then all of the preparation and training in the world isn’t going to help you earn your badge. Your head needs to be in the right place, as you pursue this career, and that’s what your Inner Game is all about.

Your Outer Game

When preparing for your interview, you work through how you are going to answer all the typical interview questions, how you’re going to answer situational questions, and hopefully, how you’re going to finish with a strong closing statement.

You also practice how you’re going to present yourself to the interview panel and focus on the length of your answers. You may then focus on dialing in your resume or how you’re going to dress for your interview.

These are all examples of your outer game. In other words, it is the outward projection of who you are and what you’re presenting to the panel, whether it be what you look like, how you dress, or how you verbally present yourself to the interview panel.

Your Inner Game

Now that we’ve defined your Outer Game, I want to add another element you need to consider in your preparation, and that is your Inner Game. Your inner game is the way you think about yourself. It’s your self-confidence. It’s your drive to reach your goals. It’s your mind saying “I can do this!” It’s your mind saying “I’m going to do this no matter what!” It’s your mind asking “What am I missing?” “What am I doing wrong?” “How do I fix it?” “What will it take for me to succeed and earn my badge?”

Your Inner Game is the ability to remove the fear and mental roadblocks that are keeping you from succeeding. They are the roadblocks that are keeping you from realizing your dream of becoming a full-time firefighter.

Whether we consciously know it or not, we all have mental barriers that we need to overcome to be successful. Mental roadblocks and fears are different for everyone, but some of the most common fears and mental roadblocks that sabotage our success are “Am I good enough?” “Can I do this?” “Will the interview panel like me?” “Will my experiences make me stand out?” “What if I don’t make it, or don’t succeed?” “What if I forget to talk about a certain area in my interview?”

This is where the mental part of your preparation comes in; your Inner Game. The better prepared you are mentally for the interview and the job of a firefighter, the better chances you have at success and finishing at or near the top of the eligibility list.

Here is the good news. The better prepared and organized you are for you interview, the easier it will be to clear those mental roadblocks that somehow rear their ugly head at the most inopportune time. The more you work on your inner game, the better the results will be for your outer game.

Dedicating time to work on your inner game is an integral part of your overall preparation, and when you have yourself in the right mindset, you’ll be amazed at what happens when you present your outer game to the panel. In fact, the thoughts you tell yourself about the interview, on a daily basis, will have a profound impact on whether you finish at or near the top of the list, or finish somewhere in the middle of the list, or lower.

A big part of my job is to help support you with your inner game. As my students know, I’m always encouraging them, inspiring them and letting them know I’m here for them when things get difficult, they get stuck, or are just feeling overwhelmed. Having a strong support group of positive friends and family is a big part of developing your inner game.

It takes confidence in yourself to be a firefighter. For some of you, having the experience of being a reserve, paid on call, or volunteer firefighter is a big advantage for you from an Inner Game standpoint. You already know a lot about what the job entails and what the responsibilities are of a firefighter, so don’t discount your experience.

For those of you who don’t have some kind of firefighter experience, that isn’t going to keep you from getting hired. I’m just suggesting that having experience will help your inner game because you know a little more of what to expect of the job going into your interview. This is a big confidence booster for your inner game.

You may also be asking, is being a full-time professional firefighter for a municipal, urban, or county fire department different from being a paid on call, or volunteer firefighter? The answer is no and yes. No, it’s not different in regard to responding to emergency calls and interacting with and helping the public and each other in the station. But, it is very different in regard to the training, amount of knowledge, and skill level full-time firefighters are required to have.

The expectations and requirements of you, as a full-time, professional firefighter are significantly more than a volunteer or paid on call and you will definitely see that when you start the fire academy for your new department. You will also see that after you pass the academy and start your probationary year. You won’t believe how much there is to learn, which is why you have an entire year just to learn the basics, and build your base knowledge. It usually takes 3 to 5 years to gain the experience of a veteran or journeyman firefighter, and your inner game is the key to your success, not only now, as you’re working towards get hired, but throughout your career as you move up in the ranks.

Final Thought

Being a firefighter is a tough job and it can be just as difficult to get that dream job you’ve been working towards. Don’t discount how your inner game will affect you in earning your badge.

When your head is in the right mindset, you're thinking positive thoughts, your motivation for getting what you want increases, you have greater confidence, and your mind is clear on what you need to do and how to do it.

Your inner game should constantly be telling you that you are already a firefighter and that you can do this, and you will do this. Your inner game is where you succeed and reach your goals.

You can go through all of those things that prepare you to become a firefighter, but if you’re not in the right frame of mind when you start playing your outer game, it will all be for nothing. So, don’t forget that your success starts with what’s going on between your ears.